“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
-U.S. Constitution First Amendment
For the decade that I’ve been following politics, free speech has been one of the most important issues championed by conservatives who felt that their freedom of speech was under attack on two fronts: Corporations and government was one front, the other was on college campuses and at grass root events where conservative speakers were heckled and booed because they said something that was seen as controversial.
Conservatives claim that government agencies and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been silencing dissenting opinions — mostly those of conservatives
During the 2016 presidential campaign, news stories surfaced that claimed Facebook employees who monitored the social media’s news algorithms were limiting exposure to conservative news outlets.
Popular conservative commentators such as Ben Shapiro, Katie Pavlich, and Steven Crowder (to name a few) have had difficulty scheduling speaking events on college campuses because of security reasons.
All of the commentators mentioned above have spoken at college campuses where liberal college students protested their events, and they usually had to pay for their own security or worse simply have their event cancelled due to security concerns.
The examples listed above should make someone worry. As Americans we have a right to speak. However, too many speakers have encountered angry protesters who have probably never actually, firsthand heard what the speaker had to say.
For years conservatives have felt under attack, but now that Donald Trump is president they feel emboldened to speak their mind and in too many cases feel like exercising their free speech to silence or “melt” liberal “snowflakes.”
But is this happy crowd of conservatives at risk of doing the exact same thing they accuse liberals of?
For proof, one need look no further than the Conservative Political Action Conference that occurred last week in which conservatives booed and closed their ears to ideas they disagreed with.
On Friday, Democratic commentator Rick Ungar was on a panel discussing the effect Trump has had on politics, when he made a statement that drew of the crowd when he said:
“And I’ve got to tell you something, as somebody who lived in Mexico for seven years of my life, Mexicans who are coming across this border have so much more in common with conservatives that it’s not even a close call. They do. They do.”
A point which one might think conservatives would cheer, but the comment drew collective booes and heckling with chants of “build the wall.”
The crowd didn’t heckle any of the conservative panelists.
Then on Saturday, Mona Charen, a writer for the conservative National Review, voiced her disapproval of President Trump and the conservative moment’s treatment of women and the #metoo movement.
“I’m disappointed about our side about being silent about serial harassers and abusers, including the one sitting in the White House.”
That statement led to loud boos and shouting from the crowd, with Charen later being escorted out of the building by security.
In both of these cases, conservatives booed and shouted down opinions they disagree with. Which is exactly what they’ve blasted the Left for doing.
What worries me is that the crowd at CPAC was full of mostly young, and intelligent individuals who could start the next Facebook or Twitter. If they continue this trend of shouting down those they disagree with, where will we be in ten, twenty, or thirty years?
If conservatives and liberals continue to shut down dissenting opinions, is there really free speech?
Conservatives and liberals alike need to be more open to hearing dissenting opinions, not just living in echo chambers that tell them what they want to hear. They should hear the other side out, even if they disagree with them, and think about what was said.
Differing opinions do not equal wrong opinions all the time. Unless both sides embrace that, we’re headed towards a divisive future where we don’t talk to each other and where animosity and a desire for revenger foster.